MOUNTAIN VIEW (AP) — Carrying signs that included a mocking reference to the company’s original “Don’t be evil” motto, thousands of Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job Thursday to protest what they said was the tech giant’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.
From Tokyo and Singapore to London and San Francisco, highly paid engineers and other workers staged walkouts of around an hour, reflecting rising #MeToo-era frustration among women over frat-house behavior and other misconduct in heavily male Silicon Valley.READ MORE: Outrage Grows Over Racist Social Media Attack Targeting KPIX 5 Reporter Betty Yu
In Dublin, organizers used megaphones to address the outdoor crowd of men and women, while in other places, workers gathered in packed conference rooms or lobbies. In New York, there appeared to be as many men as women out in the streets, while in Cambridge, Massachusetts, men outnumbered women by perhaps 6 to 1.
“Time is up on sexual harassment!” organizer Vicki Tardif Holland shouted, her voice hoarse, at a gathering of about 300 people in Cambridge. “Time is up on systemic racism. Time is up on abuses of power. Enough is enough!”
About 1,000 Google workers in San Francisco swarmed into a plaza in front of the city’s historic Ferry Building, chanting, “Women’s rights are workers’ rights!”
Thousands also walked out at the company’s Mountain View headquarters at precisely 11:10 a.m.
The vast majority of employees did not want to speak publicly. But a few did, albeit sparingly.
“I have friends, I have family, who have been sexually harassed time and time again,” said Google software engineer J.J. Wanda. “While I personally have not been harassed, I have seen friends get hurt and have their careers destroyed by this. Not just at Google, but everywhere, including all forms of tech. And so as a result, we need to show that time’s up. And this is the best way that we can do that.”
The demonstrations reflected a sense among some of the 94,000 employees at Google and its parent Alphabet Inc. that the company isn’t living up to its professed ideals, as expressed in its “Don’t be evil” slogan and its newer injunction in its corporate code of conduct : “Do the right thing.”
“We have the eyes of many companies looking at us,” Google employee Tanuja Gupta said in New York. “We’ve always been a vanguard company, so if we don’t lead the way, nobody else will.”
The protests unfolded a week after The New York Times detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about the creator of Google’s Android software, Andy Rubin. The newspaper said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the accusations were credible. Rubin has denied the allegations.
The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the Google-affiliated lab that created self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons. DeVaul had remained at the “X” lab after the accusations surfaced a few years ago, but resigned on Tuesday without severance, Google said.
In an unsigned statement, the Google protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, a practice that requires employees to give up their right to sue and often includes confidentiality agreements.READ MORE: Despite Fines, Pleasant Hill In-N-Out Remains Defiant Over Customer Vaccine Verifications
Besides being angry about what they contend has been lenient handling of executives who mistreat women, the protest organizers demanded more aggressive steps for gender pay equity and more inclusive hiring practices to reduce the high concentration of white and Asian men in the industry’s best-paying programming jobs.
Women account for 31 percent of Google’s employees worldwide, and it’s lower for leadership roles. The numbers are similar elsewhere in Silicon Valley.
San Jose State Professor Meg Virick is an HR expert. She says the biggest challenge for Google would likely be the demand ending forced arbitration, which has been a standard business practice for decades.
But she also says this is a chance for google to lead the way and trigger massive change within tech and beyond.
“Google today has an opportunity, and they shouldn’t miss the opportunity to make a sincere effort to address the employee concerns,” said Prof. Virick. “If there’s one company that can pull it off, it would be Google.”
Beyond Google, Facebook has faced criticism over pay inequity and discrimination. The appearance of a Facebook executive behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings also caused rifts inside the company.
As Thursday dawned, organizers had predicted about 1,500 employees would participate in the walkouts, mostly women. But the numbers appeared to exceed that, based on media accounts and images posted on the protest’s Twitter account.
The protests at Google are the latest sign that frustrations among women are reaching a boiling point, said Stephanie Creary, a professor who specializes in workplace and diversity issues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“People simply aren’t willing to put up with it anymore,” Creary said. “The workers at Google seem to be saying, ‘How is it that we are still having to have this conversation?'”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai assured employees earlier this week that the company would support them in their protest. He also apologized for Google’s “past actions.”
“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai said in an email. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society … and, yes, here at Google, too.”
In recent months, Google and other Silicon Valley companies have also been plagued by dissension over privacy, misuse of technology and other corporate policies.
In August, more than 1,000 Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship rules.
Earlier, thousands signed a petition asking Google to cancel an artificial-intelligence protect to help the Pentagon improve the targeting of drone strikes. Google later said it won’t renew the contract, according to published reports, and opted not to bid for another military contract that could be worth $10 billion.MORE NEWS: Suspect In San Francisco DoorDash Child Kidnapping Case Indicted On Multiple Grand Jury Charges
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.